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Woolwich looks to boost dog-tag numbers

Township approves new approach to contacting owners, collecting late fees

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Sure it’s missing out on thousands of dollars, Woolwich is getting more aggressive about ensuring dog owners purchase tags for their pets.

A new process approved this week by councillors will see notifications circulated through property tax bills, with those who fail to register their dogs susceptible to fees being tacked on to their taxes.

The township estimates only a third of dog owners actually license their pets each year as required.

Based on low renewal rates, even those who’ve previously registered their dogs aren’t complying with township bylaws, let alone the estimated two-thirds of those who’ve never bothered to do so, suggested bylaw enforcement officer Vanessa Albanese at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

“In the Township of Woolwich, only 11 per cent of households have licensed dogs. This suggests that less than one-third of dogs are registered,” she said in a report. “[E]ach year the number of dog tags issued within the township is decreasing, when numbers are expected to increase with the growing population. The proposed changes will promote a fair and equitable system for all dog owners.”

Currently, residents must purchase a tag for each dog they own before March 1. Staff makes reminder calls in February each year  to residents whose dog licences are outstanding according to the previous year’s licence records, imposing a $15 late fee on those who don’t comply, she explained.

Based on 2018 figures, for instance, there are some 513 outstanding tags, representing lost revenue of more than $13,000.

While supportive of the changes, Coun. Larry Shantz questioned how the new process is going to deal with dog owners who have never bothered to license their pets. Won’t they continue to ignore the bylaw, he asked?

In response, Albanese said the township hoped to see greater compliance by making the tag issue more visible through tax bills, while making collection easier if officials do become aware of an unregistered dog, as the license cost and a $15 administration fee would be added to the owner’s taxes.

Addressing a question from Coun. Patrick Merlihan, she added that it’s the responsibility of residents to keep the township informed if they no longer have a dog or add another one to the household, for instance.

The new licensing process is due to come into full effect in 2020, though the township plans to use the tax route to deal with “problem” cases who currently don’t comply, said Albanese.

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